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Running an online competition. Legal and other issues?

What needs to be considered when running an online competition>

     
3:41 am on Jun 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

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We are thinking of running some competitions for our visitors, but wondered if there were any special legal issues to be concerned about?

Not sure how we are going to do this yet, but will probably contact relevent companies to offer prizes (small prizes probably) as a promotional/contra deal. Will probably involve asking visitors to submit quiz answers via their site/forum membership.

Anyone have any experience with this?

1:00 pm on June 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I've only ever been involved with one website competition and found a bit of an issue caused by some of the many 'competition' forums.

A couple of forums published all the answers and linked to the competition page. 90% of submissions were then from people looking for an easy win, rather than from the regular site visitors. None of the extra visitors looked around the site - just emailed their answers and moved on to the next one.

Just something to be aware of!

8:36 am on June 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Badger37

It's going to be fairly low level. No massive prizes at this stage.

10:26 am on June 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Over and above the issues that Badger37 mentioned different jurisdictions have different rules about competitions. You need some local advice about the exact terms.

If you are offering physical prizes then remember to restrict participation by country otherwise you could end up with some unexpected international shipping costs.

10:58 am on June 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

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That is indeed part of the problem.

How does one deal with International laws regarding competitions?

11:39 am on June 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Some observations based on experiences of running online competitions and having a rabid competition-entering (aka comper) partner :-

Create a sensible mash-up of rules from other competitions (from sites in your legal jurisdiction). Looking at other peoples' rules, you will inevitably find yourself saying "I hadn't thought of that".

You'll be surprised at how many people don't claim prizes, so include a rule for your competition to cover this e.g. redraw 7 days after notification.

Include a clear closing date & time, as you will see a huge last minute rush to enter. If your competition closes at midnight, write a script to automatically close it and mail the winners - learnt this from a grim New Year's eve.

Include a rule stating that you will publish winners' names & whereabouts.

Look out for bots. There are sites which will (for a fee) automatically enter competitions for idle freeloaders. Include a rule about bulk entries.

Include a rule for one entry per household. Do this to exclude people who think you won't spot the fact that they have 20+ email addresses e.g. homer@thesimpsons.com, marge@thesimpsons.com, .....

Log as much information about each entry, including IP & time, so that you can deal with cheats and complainers.

Use some kind of cookie-based analytics to track how many people entering the competition come back.

Don't make any question too hard, it saves your bandwidth for the folks who will take 20 attempts to figure out a 3 answer multiple choice question. Don't forget to include a rule stating that they must answer the question correctly!

Compers have lots of half-baked ideas about the optimal way to enter a competition, e.g. that newsletter subscription increases their chance of winning (I frequently see 40%+ signup rates). So offer a newsletter signup on your competition prize page - it will let you reach the drive-by 'compers' later on, when they are not in competition entering mode.

Try not to resent the freeloaders but think of it as brand advertising instead. In fact, encourage them - submit your competition to the comping sites, put a "we're listed on" link on your compeition page. After all, the freeloaders may become customers or active community members.

My favourite rule? "We cannot be held responsible for any emotional distress caused by not winning our competition."

8:47 pm on June 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Thanks azazello.